Fox Sports One is almost one year old; the one for sports or mishaps?—the Monday Morning Realist


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

One year ago, Fox Sports debuted a twenty four hour a day, seven day a week channel taglined as “The One”.

One year ago, Fox Sports debuted a twenty four hour a day, seven day a week channel that was said to be the biggest competitor to ESPN yet.

One year ago, Fox Sports debuted a twenty four hour a day, seven day a week channel that many figured would be an answer to the over “Bristolization” of the sports fan.

One year ago, Fox gave us Fox Sports One (as well as Fox Sports Two).

Realists, Fox Sports One is actually one of my more frequently watched channels (whenever I have the time to sit in front of my TV set, nowadays). The way they present sports in a format that is different from ESPN’s is refreshing. They are not trying to be a carbon copy the four-letter network in any way, shape, or form.

On-air, the product is certainly appealing, especially if you are a fan of the NFL, MLB, Nascar, college sports, UEFA, or the UFC (all of the sports that “The One” has rights to).

For those that may have forgotten, the competition that ESPN has received from other channels has been slowly but surely increasing. First, it was CBS flipping its college basketball-centric sports channel into one that is full service. They have recently announced plans to debut an all-female sports show later this year.

NBC then changed the name of its “Versus” network to the NBC Sports Network with the backbone of that channel being its coverage of the English Premiere League, the NHL, and Olympic sports such as the Tour de France.

Yes, the Tour de France still exists, believe it or not, Realists.

Then last year, Fox flipped the formats its motorsports channel, Speed, and its action sports network, Fuel, into FS1 and FS2. In addition, the changes also came with Fox relegating its soccer channel, Fox Soccer, into a secondary “FXX Movies” network. Thankfully, at least for some race fans, some of Speed’s more Sprint Cup-centric programs such as Nascar Victory Lane and Nascar Race Hub have made the move over to Fox Sports One.

The Fox Soccer branding is still present on the Fox Soccer website, which was strange that they would do that considering that Fox now has rights to all FIFA World Cups (men’s and women’s) starting with next year’s women’s World Cup in Canada and until 2022 in Qatar (unless, of course, it’s relocated).

This was a channel that entered into the full-time sports game with high expectations. They hired the comical duo of Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole from TSN in Canada to anchor its nightly highlights program, Fox Sports Live. This has definitely been the best hire FS1 has made so far given that they bring a much needed comedic personality to sports highlights. When Onrait and O’Toole announced that they were leaving Canada for the States, the shock North of the Border was so great that it got the attention of Stephen Harper, the country’s prime minister.

Imagine if Stuart Scott got an offer from TSN or SportsNet in Canada and he got a letter from President Barack Obama wishing him good luck. Yeah, it went like that in Canada.

Other personalities, of course, include Charissa Thompson, formerly of ESPN’s SportsNation and on her second tour of duty with Fox. Former ESPN personality Mike Hill also has a show—America’s Pregame. Later in the day, they also have a program called “The MLB WhipAround, which features highlights of baseball games in progress ala MLB Network’s MLB Tonight. Live games are also seen on Saturdays on “The One” and its pregame coverage of both this year’s Super Bowl (on Fox) and the MLB All-Star Game (on Fox) were certainly high points for FS1.

And, once upon a time, so did Regis Philbin. Remember that whole “Crowd Goes Wild” thing?

It turned out that instead of a crowd going wild, no fans even showed up to the stadium. CGW’s ratings were abysmal and it wasn’t long before Fox pulled the axe on Philbin. That hire was done more or less to give the channel a celebrity presence.

Then, in the midst of the Yes Network become majority owned by 21st Century Fox, Mike Francesa’s WFAN program lost its simulcast on the Yes Network in favor of the Michael Kay (voice of the New York Yankees) Show on Gotham’s ESPN 98.7 FM.

Francesa was picked up by FS1.

This has always been one that has been a head scratcher for me. Yes, Francesa is probably the number one local sports talk host in the country, but while he has received an increased national profile (which began when he and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo—now at Sirius XM—did “Mike and the Mad Dog” for many years), the core audience of his show still happens to be people who live in the Tri State area.

This has been a mishap on the part of FS1 in my opinion. Wouldn’t it make more sense to simulcast a national radio show with a national presence from, uh…Fox Sports Radio, instead of doing a syndie of a New York show on a CBS Sports radio station?

While there has been some good and some bad with this new channel, overall the ratings have not even put a dent in those of ESPN’s. In fact, Fox decided to “86” its college football pregame show because it was a blip on the radar to ESPN’s College Gameday.

What everyone needs to remember, on this issue of Fox Sports One, is that it will still take time for this new channel to increasingly gain traction. That may mean having more talking heads on air ala the several ESPN programs. But, this channel still needs a lot of time to build an audience.

If anyone remembers (or forgets) history, ESPN debuted in 1979. The idea of a 24-hour television channel devoted entirely to sports was once laughed at amongst people, even sports fans who were once used to only seeing sports shows for a half an hour on their local television stations.

When Jeff Smulyan, currently in charge of radio company Emmis Communications, launched WFAN in 1987 on 1050 AM in New York City, the idea of 24-hour sports on the radio was said to be a failure on arrival.

Now, look at both ESPN and WFAN. Both have done pretty well for themselves, I think.

Bristol now has so many channels domestically and internationally (plus a magazine and radio network) that one can’t help but think, “What will they think of next?”

There would be no ESPN Radio without WFAN. Now, NBC, CBS, Yahoo, and Fox all have national sports channels on TV and radio.

Maybe some of us are trying to rush the process because in 2014, we’re always trying to look for instant gratification. But, there are still people out there that don’t even know Fox Sports One exists even one year later. And, there are still some trying to discover it.

My take on it has always been that Fox Sports One does not need to be a carbon copy of ESPN to be successful. We know what the identity of that channel is. It’s just that we have been so accustomed to ESPN that when something comes along that doesn’t entirely mimic ESPN, we immediately brand the channel as a bigger bust than Greg Oden.

It’s no different than trying out new food. Someone may be used to eating nothing but fast food, that when the opportunity is given to dine at a five-star eatery downtown, we’re nervous and may not want to do so because they won’t exactly be serving grilled cheese hamburgers with large fries and a medium soda.

Especially, if that eatery just opened up downtown.

So, let’s not ask the restaurant downtown to close up shop after just a year of business when they’re just getting their feet wet with would be customers. And, let’s not declare Fox Sports One a failure after only year of existence. If ESPN decided to make its decisions based on only a year of existence, ESPN wouldn’t be around today and probably would stand for something totally unrelated to sports.

At this point, FS1 simply needs to be “The One for Patience”.